“Christian, how did you enjoy comfort before? Was the creature anything to you but a conduit, a pipe, that conveyed God’s goodness to you? ‘The pipe is cut off,’ says God, ‘come to me, the fountain, and drink immediately.’ Though the beams are taken away, yet the sun remains the same in the firmament as ever it was.” -Jeremiah Burroughs
I finished preaching through the book of Philippians yesterday. In the second half of chapter 4 we find some of the most counter-cultural words in the New Testament.
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. -Philippians 4:11-13
I believe these words are counter-cultural because we live in a place and time where many of us have much more than we need. If you want some perspective on how much we have here in America compared to other parts of the world go HERE. Perhaps I don’t need to state the obvious, but I will anyway. It’s hard to be content when we have so much. Having lots of good things makes you desire more good things. It’s just the way it works.
In Philippians Paul is telling us that even in the midst of great difficulties, like being in prison, we can experience supernatural contentment. So I wanted to share with you 5 truths that I believe we learn about contentment from God’s Word. But let’s start by defining contentment. Jeremiah Burroughs in his book, “The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment” defines contentment like this, “Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.”
FIVE TRUTHS ABOUT CONTENTMENT
- Contentment is one of the hardest battles you will ever face. The consequences of not being satisfied and content in Christ leads to all kind of idolatry. If we are not finding satisfaction in Jesus we will find it some other place. Career, fitness, image, spouse, family, money, sex, porn, food, sports. All of these can become substitutes for finding true contentment in Christ. The tendency we have to self-medicate ourselves against the heartaches of life is an enormous, life-long battle we are all engaged in. We have to realize that we will have to fight, through prayer and God’s Word, everyday to find true fulfillment.
- Contentment is not based on how well life is going. This is such a clear message from the life of Paul. Paul was content when he had plenty and Paul was content when he was facing execution. This Biblical truth is one of the reasons I despise the prosperity gospel. Faith does not keep us from difficulties and suffering. Often times it is precisely because we do have faith, and get out of our comfort zone, that we will face challenges in life.
- Contentment can be temporarily confused with pleasant life circumstances. I don’t think I am being redundant at this point. What I am trying to say is that I believe it is possible to confuse the fact that life is going fairly well with gospel contentment. We need to examine ourselves. Are we merely happy with how life is going or are we finding contentment and joy that only comes from abiding in Christ? Are we truly enjoying God himself or the good gifts that he gives us?
- Contentment will not be complete until we are in heaven. We can make ourselves, and others, miserable if we communicate that we can be completely content in the here and now. I have written about THIS before. Paul wrote this in 2 Corinthians 5:2, “For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling.” Until we are finally home there will always be that ache that awaits the return of our Lord and Savior.
- Contentment comes from understanding and treasuring the gospel. What do we truly deserve? The wages of sin is death, right? Death and hell are what we “deserve.” But what have we graciously received in Jesus Christ? Forgiveness of sins. The promise of being with our heavenly Father for all of eternity. Unspeakable joy. Freedom from sin. When we understand what we deserve, but remember what we have received in Christ, we will experience contentment. So yes, the gospel is the only way to understanding and experiencing contentment. With that said, a great resource for feasting on the gospel can be found HERE.
Here are a couple other resources to consider in regards to finding contentment:
- “The Rare Jewel of Contentment” by Jeremiah Burroughs (Free PDF)
- “The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment On Your Side Of The Fence” by Stephen Altrogge
“Discontentment begins when I start trying to be God. Discontentment happens when I attempt to displace God from his rightful place at the center of the universe. When I think that everything should run according to my plans instead of God’s plans. When I forget that God is God and that he is allowed to do with me whatever he wants, whatever will bring him glory. Discontentment results from a big view of myself and a very little view of God.” -Stephen Altrogge, The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment on Your Side of the Fence